False Starts and Introductions to Novels: Too Cliché or A Forgotten Skill?

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“At dawn, the sun either shines itself or hides behind clouds, promising what the day will bring. So it is with introductions in stories.” —anonymous

Most agents and editors would balk at the suggestion of a false start intro. On its own, there’s nothing wrong with an exciting beginning, so long as it’s done well. Then again, the last time I read a false start in a novel was years ago. Is it now a forgotten technique, shunned by writers? The problem is that false introductions are usually poorly done and give off a flat feeling for the rest of the book.

First Paragraphs

The first few paragraphs of a book introduce an author’s style—his or her prose rhythm, subtle insecurities, and other narrative patterns. A book is like an onion; it has layers of emotional and mental components embedded into the prose.

This is especially the case in early drafts, where the author is still figuring out what he or she wants to do with the story. Analyzing one’s writing patterns in drafts can lead to improvement and growth for writers. It’s what I do. I read and reread over my manuscripts to analyze them.

A Handy Exercise on Introductions in Prose

There’s an exercise in this article that I recommend. An author examines the first 250 words of the story. Heavily. Dissect it, break it apart, and ask:

  1. What is the purpose of this introduction?
  2. Why is it set up like this?
  3. Is there a hook for the reader?
  4. Is the introduction short enough for the sake of clarity and pacing, but long enough to express its purpose?
  5. What patterns does this intro reveal about the book as a whole?

These questions are by no means exhaustive. Invent questions and discover how many perspectives and shades of grey the introduction can produce.

The first 250 words are crucial to the rest of the story and should let the reader know what they’re in for. Most readers picking up a book at the store—or skimming it over on Amazon—will do this to see if the story interests them. If it’s worth their time, money, and energy. Books, writing, and reading are all about an exchange of energy.

Can the author provide a worthwhile exchange for the reader?

Keeping Introductions to Novels Interesting

I once heard a fellow writer say:

“Stories are like skirts. They have to be long enough to cover everything, but short enough to keep things interesting.” —anonymous

While that might not be the cleverest of examples, he did have a point. Stories, and particularly introductions—since introductions are a significant part of the prose—should be short and sweet, including everything that should be there.

Hooking Readers in the Introduction of a Novel

Here’s a helpful article on hooking readers in the introduction. The author mentions driving the prose with curiosity and conflict—elements that provoke the reader, tempting them to read further.

Internal dialog or exposition can hint at a character’s insecurities, flaws, or other issues. I’m not big on exposition myself—too many writers turn internal narration into a dry monologue that is boring to read, but that’s a topic for another time. Still, its a useful tool and it does have a place.

Stress is…Good for Readers?

Readers love stress and anxiety in a story; they hate it in real life—so, give them what they want, am I right? And do it early on, promising them the reward they will receive if they delve deeper into the story. Dangle that carrot! Gosh, sometimes I feel like a drug dealer with these dopamine-filled scenes. 😦

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Don’t be Afraid to Use False Introductions

Approach the introduction with a sense of clarity and purpose for the reader. Have a plan for the intro, and reflect that throughout the story. The promises made in those first 250 words should come full circle. Otherwise, the introduction is nothing more than a prop that can not—and should not—stand on its own.

Striking a Balance

A solid introduction to a novel is vital. Take time with it, and review it on a routine basis. Even after the twentieth read through, authors may discover new insights about themselves as writers. Even as souls. Each piece of the story, the characters, the scenes, are reflections of the author.

Ask:

  1. Is it long enough to cover everything?
  2. Is it short enough to keep it interesting?
  3. Does it dangle the carrot appropriately, leaving the reader begging for more?

If a writer can bond the reader with the main protagonist and the story within the first few paragraphs, then congratulations! That writer has accomplished a feat that most struggle with. Beginnings are, for me, the funniest part of a new story, but they can also be the hardest.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Writing Habits Questionnaire

Sal’av (that’s Atlasian for hello), and welcome to the first post of 2022! Here I have a questionnaire about my writing habits, as requested by a friend.

Being a writer is a complicated journey. I’m still green around the ears, but the more I write, the more I discover about myself.

1. How Often Do You Write? When? Where?

I often write the year ’round. Holidays are no exception, as I often sneak in a writing session. My preferred times are either around noon or in the early evening. Seldom mornings. I write for about an hour on busy workdays, and up to three on days I’m off. As I don’t have a laptop yet, I’m confined to my desktop at home. It’s a cozy little office I’ve built for myself. 😛

2. Do You Take Long Breaks?

Sometimes. It’s not uncommon for me to write for weeks without end, then take a few days to a week off completely. This gives me time to rest my creative muscles and/or focus more on my sketching. Hiking and meditation are good too. Overall, I find breaks help; otherwise, I risk overtaxing myself.

3. Music? Tea? Coffee?

I usually play music depending on my mood, or if a certain track fits a scene I’m writing. Usually, it’s epic orchestra. Sometimes tea, never coffee.

4. Favorite Scenes To Write?

I like action-adventure, some romance, and mysterious lore scenes. Anything that provokes deep thought or excitement. Even horror can be great for my writing juices.

5. Favorite Characters To Write?

I like to write heroes more than villains. Especially scenes that involve legendary weapons with flashy designs. The Hero’s Journey fascinates me; to watch the hero grow.

6. Poetry or Stories?

I like both. Stories are deeper, but poetry can be a nice insert into a story too. Weaving both together is a beautiful process. 🙂

7. How Do You See Yourself As A Writer Ten Years From Now?

I’ll have a few books published and a small to moderate following. I have no plans on being someone famous. Writing, to me, is more a fun and creative process, not a mechanical job-like thing for profit or fame.

That’s the end! How about you, dear reader? Are you a writer, and what are your habits, quirks, and preferences?


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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NaNoWriMo 2021 Thoughts, Plans, Reflections

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Short post. It’s November again, and that means NaNo. As a creative writer, I’ve participated in NaNo before. Carving out a whole month to dedicate to the craft can seem daunting. As with any NaNoWriMo event, the goal is to write 50,000 words.

In a month.

This can be done however a writer chooses. NaNoWriMo is what you make of it. As long as you’re having fun, then you’re doing something right. I’ve certainly enjoyed the process so far. It has reminded me why I write—to explore myself and share these ideas with others.

Aside from increasing hours at my two jobs, side obligations at home, and seasonal family gatherings, I’ve chosen a gentler NaNo challenge. This year I’m to finish book 2’s rough manuscript and then book 1’s edit pass. This will amount to over 200,000 words of revision, or over 6,000 words a day. Impossible you say? Well, I cheated…

Kind of.

By starting the process in October, I gave myself plenty more time to achieve this milestone. December and/or January, therefore, I will be in editor-hiring mode.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck. Try not to stress over it too much. The objective of this ritual is to get you motivated and excited about writing. Here’s some tips to get you started.

Anyway, back to writing!

white and gray floral ceramic cup and saucer near black typewriter and book

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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or spiritual seeker should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from a safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic of the protagonist’s journey through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero. The second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act. These are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey. Some are necessary to flesh out the story.

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, flaws, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incident like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. The hero must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword, elixir, or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the Final Threshold. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero, requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person, transmuted into the true hero. Now cleansed of past flaws, the hero is equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the Ordinary World as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the Final Ordeal, s/he improves upon the Ordinary World. A new era of peace and reflection results. The prize may be multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey, but things will never be as they once were.

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

There are extra elements in the Hero’s Journey, such as sub-journeys that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing exile.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey occurs in every good fiction. It’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is also a blueprint from which anyone can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
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Beyond Sitting: Postures for Better Creativity, Health

As writers, we often sit in front of a laptop or a book to hone our craft. Whether its reading, writing, or something between, the art requires a significant amount of sitting. However, sitting for lengthy periods can strain the nervous system and thought process. Over the years, I’ve discovered several postures that have helped me endured long writing sessions.

Why not write, read, or scroll the internet while training the body? Is this possible?

The Problem with Chairs

When we look at the design of a chair, what it does to our bodies, whoever designed it was either a fool or a sadist. Chairs—and their cousins, throne toilets and car seats—put the body in an unnatural position.

Granted, the human body can sit fine in a chair…for brief amounts of time. Problems arise when we sit for long periods. The human body wasn’t designed to stagnate, but to move; to dance, sing, explore, and discover.

The Effects of Sitting

When we sit:

  • muscles get weaker in the lower body
  • metabolism slows, testosterone drops, and fat accumulates easier
  • cardiovascular and cranial health deteriorates (think stroke, dementia, brain fog)
  • the risk of disability skyrockets, and blood circulation grows sluggish
  • the bowels constrict, leading to constipation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, and more
  • childbirth is long and painful (what is considered normal in the West, but strange in third-world countries)

And that’s to name a few. Now, before we go swearing off the ritual of writing, art, sketching, reading, or whatever else we do; there is hope.

Solutions to the Chair

“You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are.”

Rosie Spinks

As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in a chair for, say, 20 minutes. But mixing in some varied resting postures will stimulate nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, lymph—that will strengthen both our bodies and minds.

After my previous post on creativity, I thought I’d elaborate on how best to optimize it. It’s hard to enjoy a sore back, or that feeling of stiffness from long periods of sitting. With biohacking as one of my passions next to writing, I’ve listed some of my favorite sitting postures. Feel free to add your own modifications to these.

1. Vajrasana, Rock Pose, Thunderbolt Pose

Vajrasana, otherwise known as thunderbolt or rock, stretches the lower body as you rest. You perform this pose by kneeling and sitting on your feet. This shifts the weight away from the back and onto the knees and ankles. This pose is excellent for concentration and creativity. You can make the pose easier by placing a cushion between your buttocks and your feet.

I’ve written several articles, stories, and blog posts while in this pose. It’s reliable and powerful.

2. Malasana, Garland Pose

Malasana, also known as garland squat or resting squat, is excellent for the hips and lower body. After long bouts of sitting, I usually do this pose to stretch any stiff joints. You come into a deep resting squat and allow your pelvic floor to relax towards the ground. Press your elbows between your knees. This can be a tricky pose for most people to do after decades of sitting in a chair. You can place a blanket under your heels to make it easier.

Many people in the world still sit, rest, play, and eat in this posture for hours. Definitely one of my favorites, as the benefits of this biohacking pose, or squatting in general, are numerous.

3. Headstand

Inversions are incredible for the body, especially the brain. Headstands/handstands improve focus, balance hormones, boost creativity, among other things. I use a wall to support myself, but eventually I’ll progress to unassisted headstands. Headstands are best done during breaks during long sitting sessions; doing a headstand while typing wouldn’t be advised.

The awe and euphoria of a headstand cannot be expressed in words, and it’s led to some major boosts to creativity. Not to mention, it helps me problem solve plot and character issues in my stories and in real life.

4. Deadhang

A simple stretch that isn’t a yoga pose as much as it is a calisthenic exercise. Hanging from a bar, as if to do a pullup, has great benefits. For one, it decompresses the spine, good after long periods of sitting. A few seconds is enough to reap the benefits; my calisthenics mentor suggests at least 30 to 60 seconds.

5. Spinning

When you were a kid, you probably played ‘merry-go-round’ with a partner. Spinning clockwise promotes vitality, and children know it all too well. It helps remove any stagnation that may have built up during long bouts of sitting. Begin slowly, maybe 8 revolutions a day. I do about 13, my palms facing downwards to ground myself, and will gradually progress to 33 revolutions.

6. Inclined Bed Rest

Even when I sleep, I stretch my body. Sleeping at an incline does wonders for the brain and spinal cord. It reduces pressure on the organs and improves sleep, while allowing the lymphatic system to drain. Elevate the pillow-side of the bed a few inches to get the benefits. Since adopting this practice, my creativity has seen tremendous improvements.

7. Rebounding

Jumping on a trampoline or rebounder is fun, and excellent for the lymphatic system. It comes as no surprise, as we all hopped on beds when we were children. Rebounding, along with headstands and spinning, should dramatically improve one’s spatial awareness and blood flow to the brain. A biohacking miracle. Better circulation means better creativity, more energy, and stronger ambitions to complete that creative project in mind.

A Final Word on Resting

There are many resting postures, and the above list isn’t exhaustive. It gives us a starting point to stretch our bodies and keep our muscles, joints, and circulation toned while in our offices.

The key is diverse, fluid motion. To feel human.

The human spine wasn’t designed to sit in front of a desk for hours each day. Nor were the eyes, or the shoulders and wrists. We evolved as hunters and gatherers moving from one location to another. Breathing fresh air, absorbing sunshine, and connecting with the earth. Sometimes we walked, otherwise we squatted, but our lymphatic system and blood require change and motion to function. The more blood flowing, the better we can think—and create.

Once we master the secrets of our ancestors, we’ll rediscover the gifts innate in us. The storytellers of old may return, and with it, captivating tales, strong minds, and healthy bodies.

Remember, have inspiration in all things, from taking a walk to writing a story, journaling, biohacking, or painting a canvas. After all, we are the authors of our own life stories. When we lie on our deathbed, let’s remember all the fun we had: the creation, the movement, and the joy that comes with it all.

For to train the mind, but neglect the body, leads to disaster.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Describing Sounds in Writing

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When we think of the word sound, the last thing we may associate it with are words and phrases. However, sound and writing go hand-in-hand. Recently, I learned from a writing class how important sounds can be for strengthening prose—what a shocker!

In this article, I’ll discuss the various definitions and techniques that are often used. Many thanks to Mark Nichol for the awesome advice!

1. Alliteration

Alliteration is the pattern of multiple words in the same phrase with the same consonant sound. Here’s an example:

“Squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the party’s mission.”

Notice how performances and promises ring together? It provokes the reader subconsciously, so to associate those two concepts together and highlighting a theme of success. Process and party could also be associated.

“They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different, and difficult places.”

In this passage, distant, different, and difficult highlights the arduous adventure being described.

2. Assonance

Similar to alliteration, assonance involves the repetition of certain vowels, especially in stressed syllables, but with different consonant sounds.

 “Men sell the wedding bells.”
Go and mow the lawn.”

In the above examples, sell and bells followed by go and mow are what highlight the assonance.

3. Consonance

Can you guess what this term implies? That’s right, the repetition of consonants, particularly at the end of a word.

“Their maid has spread the word of their deed.”
Cheer and beer go with sorrow and tomorrow.”

Here, you have maid, spread, word, and deed. Cheer and beer with sorrow and tomorrow make another pair. The word pairs doesn’t have to rhyme, only share the final sound—rhyming comes later. 🙂

4. Onomatopoeia

When you have words that translate as sound effects, this is onomatopoeia.

“A splash disturbed the hush of the droning afternoon.”
“Her heels clacked on the hardwood floor.”

5. Repetition

Repetition is, well, repeating a word or phrase to emphasize the message of a passage.

“When we arrive at the store, we will buy something. When we buy something, we will pay for it. When we pay for it, we will take it home.”
“When I find you, I will catch you. When I catch you, I will cook you. When I cook you, I will eat you.”

These examples creates a percussive effect on the reader’s mind to push the meaning of the passage.

6. Rhyme

This one should be a given, or else the writer may be forgiven (hahaha ehem…). Poetry often makes use of rhymes, but normal prose can too!  In fact, here’s a nifty tool I discovered that helps with rhyme words. Enjoy.

7. Rhythm

With rhythm, the prose is altered to create tempo.

“The eager coursing of the strident hounds
And the sudden pursuit of the mounted men
Drove the bounding prey ever on.”

Here’s an example taken from Dr. Seuss:

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!
Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler
of all that I see!”

Shorter tempo creates a faster rhythm, and vice versa. With the proper rhythm, sentence length, and prose structure, a writer can add depth and even emotion to prose.

When we describe sounds, we lean on the other four senses (touch, taste, smell, and sight) to paint a picture. Here’s a list of ways to describe sound in writing. Credit goes to Amanda Patterson.

Words Describing General Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing Pleasing Sounds

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound

Describing Noisy Sounds

  1. at full blast – as loudly as possible
  2. almighty – used for emphasising how loud something is
  3. brassy – a sound that is loud and unpleasant
  4. deafening – a sound so loud you cannot hear anything else
  5. ear-splitting – extremely loud
  6. explosive – a sound that is loud and unexpected
  7. howling – a continuous, low, loud noise
  8. insistent – a continuous, loud, strong noise
  9. loud – a sound that is strong and very easy to hear
  10. noisy – a sound that is full of noise
  11. percussive – a sound that is short, like someone hitting a drum
  12. piercing – a sound that is very  loud, high, and unpleasant
  13. pulsating – strong, regular pattern
  14. raucous – rude, violent, noisy
  15. resounding – a sound that is loud and that continues for a while
  16. riotous – lively and noisy
  17. roaring – a deep, loud noise
  18. rowdy – noisy and causing trouble
  19. sharp – a sound that is sudden and loud
  20. shrill – a sound that is loud, high, and unpleasant
  21. thundering – extremely loud
  22. thunderous – loud
  23. tumultuous –  a sound that includes noise, excitement, activity, or violence
  24. uproarious – extremely noisy

Words That Help You Show And Not Tell

  1. babble – a gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river
  2. bang – to move, making loud noises
  3. beep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  4. blare – to make a loud and unpleasant noise
  5. blast – to make a loud sound with a car horn
  6. bleep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  7. boom – to make a deep loud sound that continues for some time
  8. caterwaul – an unpleasant loud high noise
  9. chime – a high ringing sound like a bell or set of bells
  10. chink – a high ringing sound when knocked together, or to make something do this
  11. clack -to make a short loud sound like one hard object hitting against another
  12. clang – a loud, metallic sound
  13. clank – a short, loud sound
  14. clash – a loud, metallic sound
  15. clatter – a series of short, sharp noises
  16. click – a short sound like the sound when you press a switch
  17. clink – to make the short high sound of glass or metal objects hitting each other, or to cause objects to make this sound
  18. cluck – to make a short, low sound with your tongue
  19. crash – a sudden loud noise, as if something is being hit
  20. creak – if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it
  21. drone – to make a low continuous noise
  22. fizz – a soft sound that small gas bubbles make when they burst
  23. groan – a long, low, sound
  24. growl – a low, unpleasant noise
  25. grunt – to make a short low sound in your throat and nose at the same time
  26. gurgle – the low sound water makes when it is poured quickly from a bottle
  27. honk – to make a loud noise using a horn, especially the horn of a car
  28. hoot – to make a short loud sound as a warning
  29. mewl – crying with a soft, high sound
  30. moan – a long, low sound
  31. neigh – to make a high loud sound like a horse’s neigh
  32. peal – if a bell peals, or if someone peals it, it makes a loud sound
  33. peep – if a car’s horn peeps, it makes a sound
  34. ping – to make a short high sound like the sound of a small bell
  35. pipe – to make a very high sound, or to speak in a very high voice
  36. pop – a sudden noise like a small explosion
  37. putter – a short, quiet, low sound at a slow speed
  38. ring – to make a bell produce a sound
  39. roar – to make a continuous, very loud noise
  40. rumble – a continuous deep sound
  41. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  42. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  43. screech – to make a loud, high, and unpleasant noise
  44. scrunch – to make a loud noise like something being crushed
  45. sigh – a long, soft, low sound
  46. squeak – to make a short, high noise
  47. squeal – to make a long high sound
  48. squee – to make a loud high noise because you are excited or happy
  49. thrum- to make a low regular noise like one object gently hitting another many times
  50. thud – a dull sound when falling or hitting something
  51. thump – to hit against something with a low loud sound
  52. tinkle – to make a high, ringing sound
  53. wail – to make a long, high sound
  54. wheeze – a high sound, as though a lot of air is being pushed through it
  55. whine – a high, loud sound
  56. whirr – a fast, repeated, quiet sound
  57. whisper – to make a quiet, gentle sound
  58. whistle – to make a high sound by forcing air through your mouth in order to get someone’s attention
  59. yelp – a short, loud, high sound, usually caused by excitement, anger, or pain
  60. yowl – a long, loud, unhappy sound or complaint

Writing sound is a fun process that adds depth and life to prose. Becareful not to overdo it, though. We should make sure sounds make sense, have a purpose, and relate to our writing. In more serious genres, less is better. Poetry and inane novels (like Dr. Seuss) can get away with it more.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Years!


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Building a Fantasy Language—the Primeal

Language forms the crux of cultural values. From language, memes, traditions, and values emerge. The pillars of humanity. When I began Blade of Dragons, building a fantasy language that would aid me in developing the world of Atlas was vital. Enter the Primeal.

I’ll describe my experience with building a fantasy language, followed by tips from other world builders.

As a language used by the ancient Highborn on Atlas, the Primeal contains powerful phonetics and mantras. To use magic on Atlas, the practitioner must evoke words and hand gestures. Most of these I borrowed from ancient traditions here on Earth.

Objections Behind the Primeal

The Primeal has provided depth to Atlasian culture. It strengthened the world building, while heightening the immersion and character interaction. The mysteries woven into the Primeal reflect on the plot and character arcs too.

I got the idea of building a fantasy language from novels such as Mistborn, The Faded Sun Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and others. Using this method, I borrowed from Latin and Hindu. The process was easier than I thought, as I wasn’t developing a language from scratch. The downside to this was that there was less of a unique feel, compared to other fantasy languages.

Vocabulary of the Primeal

Albeit, I took a relatively simple approach to my fantasy language than most. The Primeal is, roughly, a form of butchered Latin. Many of the words have similarities to Latin vocabulary, with some Hindu and English bits thrown in.

Examples of the Primeal Language

  • Aspectä rey’lief (Aspect-TAH-Rey-LI-eff): May the Aspects’ grace follow you (used as a friendly farewell).
  • Aum (AH-ooh-oom): Creation.
  • Egüs (Ei-gu-ah-sh): You, it.
  • D’wyrm (Di-were-um): Tongue of dragons.
  • Lumasil (Lu-MAS-sil): Light of hope.
  • Me’puläm (Me-Pul-LA-um): My love, my shining star (a title used among lovers).
  • Tal’draco (Tall-der-AH-co): Dragonite.
  • Tal’snak (Tall-sh-NAH-kek): An offensive slang for a half-Dragonite.
  • Sal’av (Sal-LA-of): Hello.

Magic Applications of the Primeal

Many of the words used in modern Atlas are crude dialects of the original language; yet they still carry powerful vibrations that can influence reality. The simple word, sal’av, can evoke good will and ease in another’s heart. Another word, tal’snak, summons fear and perhaps anger in others.

Weaving together strings of power words, an individual can produce complex spells and influence reality. This act of magical weaving, or Shifting, is widespread on Atlas. The reader gets a strong example of this starting from the first scene to the final chapter.

Things Left to Consider

The Primeal, to Earth human ears, may sound musical and otherworldly, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics. I’ll research fantasy languages more to add depth to the Primeal, the feel, the vibrations of the words.

That said, I discovered some resources useful for building a fantasy language.

1. The Zompist Language Kit

This fantasy language construction kit is perfect for conlangers and is ideal for fantasy and sci-fi writers. The page guides you through the basics, such as sound, grammar, syntax, usage, and any world building bits. It’s straight forward and free online. There’s also a word generator that produces a list of words, but you’ll need some Javascript experience to use it.

2. Lingvo

Lingvo is an excellent resource on real world cultures and languages. Everything from Germanic and Babylonian dialects are available. This resource is more beginner friendly.

3. Interactive IPA Chart

Here’s a page that is an invaluable reference for new and experienced conlangers. The page explains the sounds of human language and how they are pronounced. This allows world builders and writers to go a step further with their languages.

4. IPA Keyboard Bind

This module goes with the previous as it helps bind certain IPA symbols to a single stroke. I found it useful, but not essential.

5. Google Translate

Don’t hate me for this one, but Google has a decent language engine that can provide ideas or vocabulary for new writers. The quality of translation leaves room to be desired, though.

When designing the Primeal, I had to consider the following:

  • The sounds of the language
  • A glossary, or lexicon, of words
  • The grammar, syntax, and feel of speaking the words
  • The magical and cultural implications
  • How the alphabet is modified for cursive handwriting

Like other world builders, I borrowed from preexisting languages to make my job easier. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a proven method that does work. Even English language contains words borrowed, butchered, or stolen from other languages.

Final Thoughts

Building a fantasy language is a fun process, and it doesn’t have to frustrating or complex. It’s important to keep things simple enough for your readers, or else you risk losing them at the expense of your world building. Balance, as with all things in life, is what we artists strive for.


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POV in Prose and Writing

antique book hand knowledge

Points of View

POV (point of view) in prose is a vital storytelling element, likened to the camera of the reader. Imagine looking through the eyes of one person for the entire story. In that camera, there’s a degree of trust, faith that the reader holds in the storyteller. Maybe it switches to another character as the story progresses. However, if authors violates POV rules, they risk losing the reader’s trust. Deception is never good. POV is difficult to master, and for new writers, mastering POV is crucial.

left human hand photo

Why is POV Important?

The storyteller’s perspective serves as a filter. If done wrong, the reader can be confused, or the way the story presents itself damaged. Switching from one perspective to another throughout a book can be startling, disturb story immersion, and create tension or distrust between reader and author. It can be done, but only by those experienced enough in the art.

Stay consistent and predictable with a POV. Establish the storyteller’s perspective early, and the reader will build trust and enjoyability with that story.

First-person

In life, we are all born in the first-person perspective. Even as someone reads this article, their brain absorbs it from this POV. I, me, my, we, ours—these pronouns define the viewpoint.

When using this POV in prose, it can be useful for exploring the character’s inner universe. Stick to one character’s perspective per scene, if possible. Avoid head-hopping, which is jumping from one character’s thoughts to another without a scene or chapter break.

Show the character’s emotions, why they do what they do.

Examples of First-person

I woke to the strident calls of my alarm clock as the morning rays stung my eyes. My heart pounded in my ears.

Flashes of my previous day returned. I was with my friends finishing our activities at school. Then, we saw it, the one thing a highschooler wished he would never see.

Attributes of First-person

  • The narrator becomes the character
  • Creates an emotional and intimate experience with the reader
  • Makes prose more objective
  • The plural of first-person is “we,” the singular is “I”
  • ‘We’ or “our’ is an anonymous way to strengthen formality in articles
  • Avoids “head-hopping” from one character to another without scene breaks
woman crouching on dock pointing at water

Second-person

You are reading this article. I am talking to you or you all in second-person. This is second-person POV. The narrator, instead of jumping inside the character’s head, dictates to the protagonist what is happening. In this way, the actor “hears” the narrator rather than becoming one and the same.

Second-person is often used in emails, tutorials, and other dictatorial pieces. The narrator brings the reader into the story and encourages them to engage in the plot or prose rather than from the remote standpoint of a character. In this way, second-person is more intimate than first-person.

Attributes of Second-person

  • Dictatorial POV in prose, more often used in the present tense
  • The reader is in the story rather than inside a character’s mind
  • The pronoun “you” can be singular or plural—can also use “you all”
  • More intimate and emotional with the reader than first-person
  • Excellent for tutorials, certain novels, and articles
  • Perspective strictly limited to the reader

Examples of Second-person

You woke to the strident calls of your alarm clock as the morning rays stung your eyes. Your heart pounded in your throat.

Flashes of the previous day returned. You had just finished school activities with classmates. Then, you saw it, the one thing any high schooler wished they would never see.

person standing on top of rock

Third-person

This perspective pops up in many kinds of novels, particularly romance, sci-fi, or fantasy. The narrator refers to characters by their name or as “he,” “she,” or “it.” Third-person also finds popularity in news reporting and business writing.

There are a several types of third-person perspective, as it’s one of the more complex perspectives.

1. Third-person Limited

With this perspective, the reader is a separate entity from the characters. The narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single character.

2. Third-person Multiple

Third-person Multiple opens additional information that Limited cannot convey. Multiple character perspectives are included, rather than just one.

3. Third-person Objective

This perspective comes from a neutral perspective as if the reader is an invisible spectator at the scene. The reader—separate from the characters—watches the scene play out. Descriptors that describe internal emotions are to be avoided here.

4. Third-person Subjective

Subjective perspective can use internal dialogue strictly through the words of the narrator. In subjective, the narrator takes a larger role in telling the story, rather than letting the characters do all the work. This creates distance between readers and the characters but may improve pacing.

5. Third-person Omniscient

This POV is a more extreme version of Subjective. The narrator acts as God and reports any and every thought or development between characters. This is perhaps the most difficult POV in prose, as it includes a large amount of detail and multi-tasking, or mandatory head-hopping without scene breaks.

Omniscient is a powerful perspective that can shorten prose and travel anywhere in a character’s history, but it can also be overwhelming for the reader if done wrong. If using this perspective, watch out for data dumps that slog the pace or may confuse the reader.

Attributes of Third-person

  • Places the reader in spectator mode, watching characters
  • May offer a variety of perspectives to suit the narrative
  • Provides a higher volume of information for the reader
  • Less intimate than first-person or second-person
  • Easier to confuse multiple third-POVs

Examples of Third-person

Tom woke to the strident calls of his alarm clock as the morning rays stung his eyes. Tom’s heart pounded in his throat.

Flashes of his previous day returned. Tom was back with friends, and they had just finished their activities at school. Then, Tom saw it, the one thing a highschooler wished he would never see.

black and white business career close up

FAQ For POV

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to include questions as needed. These are designed to help think about POV and which one may be best for a story.

  1. How does the story relate with the perspective of the characters? The reader? The narrator?
  2. What do I (the author) feel from watching the characters from a particular viewpoint?
  3. What emotions or traits should be presented in the story? What POV best suits this?
  4. What should readers feel as they progress through the book?
  5. How should readers connect with the characters?
  6. Is there an underlying message associated with the perspective chosen?

The Takeaway

  • Establish the POV early
  • Stay consistent with the story’s perspective
  • Don’t head hop
  • Stick to first or third-person perspective for easier writing
  • Show don’t tell, whenever possible, for a deeper POV
  • As with any set of rules, know when and how to break them while maintaining reader trust

Knowing characters on a intimate level and how they experience the plot is core to prose perspective. POV is the lens through which the reader receives the story. If the lens is clear and precise, the story is told well. If it’s dirty and cracked, that’s the type of tale readers will see.


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—Ed R. White

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Life and Death in a Fantasy Universe

Within fiction, some characters don’t share the typical life spans that Earth humans experience. Unusual lifespans in fantasy and science fiction can influence culture and plot considerably.

We all enjoy our fantasy stories about long-lived elves, immortal dragons, or extraterrestrials who supercede death. When writing or reading about these characters, it can be hard to sympathize with them. We humans have lives of 80 to 120 years at best.

Learning to Humanize

It’s important to connect characters with readers. With fictional races, ensure the reader understands the lifespan beyond each creature. Ask if a particular lifespan serves a purpose. Are elves, as an example, long-lived because of certain worldbuilding elements in the story? What the pros and cons of living this long?

Use immortality or long lifespans to an advantage. If used to create tension, all the better. Maybe the protagonist will outlive all her friends. What emotions does that create? Is it fear, sorrow, or worry?

Cultural Impacts

If a race of elves outlives a race of humans, how might that change the way each society views each other? Are the cultural functions of elves slower, more ponderous? Are the humans ever envious, or perhaps angry at the elves? Are the elves are arrogant and see the humans as lower-beings. Michael J Sullivan’s book, Age of Myth, does an excellent job of this.

Politics

If elves are long-lived, how does that change childbearing laws, if there are any? Do they procreate often, or not very much? How is it impacting the government’s role in regulating the population? We can ask a million questions with these. Take time to explore each one and world build.

Religion

A society’s view on death can be a good way to world build and even build a cast of characters up. Weave spiritual principles into the life and death narrative. The more one examines each of these facets of a fictional race, the stronger the reader’s grasp on things.

Due to changes in the sun and gravity compared to Earth, the people of Atlas live 150 to 250 years on average. Full-blooded Dragonites may reach 1,000 years, whereas half-dragons are closer to 500 to 750 years.

Because of these variables, the characteristics of Atlasian society is different than here on Earth. Lives aren’t as short and years may pass quicker for an Atlasian than an Earth human.

Culture in Ethereal Seals

Atlasian culture is advanced, to the point of space travel. Technology allows anyone to summon food at will through crystal devices. Healing technologies and magic also exist, which can mitigate the risk of death.

Death is looked upon as a somewhat foreign phenomenon. Oftentimes death is the result of battle, rather than starvation or old age. When it does occur, it creates a visceral reaction in most Atlasians, who might not be accustomed to it, nor the violence associated.

There is more consideration towards major societal changes, and families don’t procreate as often. A family might have a child once every 30 to 70 years at most.

Atlasian Politics

With longer lifespans, Atlasian governments handle things slower than here on Earth. Youth is considered anyone from the ripe age of 18 until 50, whereas anyone over 100 is of middle-age. Most leaders are chosen based on seniority for this reason. An Atlasian who has lived 200 years is much more experienced than someone at 100.

The main ruling body on Atlas, the Dragonite Empire, is more conservative, with the average Dragonite living up to 1,000 years. Some Dragonite families may only have a few children throughout their whole life, others have none. Due to their high vitality, Dragonites may act arrogant towards other races, and see themselves as protectors of Atlas.

To a Dragonite, long lives invite loneliness, as friends of other races die long before they do. Death is seen more as a release from their duties in that lifetime. A reprieve. Dragonites have a higher appreciation for death, whereas other races fear it.

Atlasian Religion

Whether through fear or respect, all Atlasians see death as an inevitable process. When one dies, it is believed they ascend into the Celestial Heavens and become one with the divine Aspects. Those of a wicked nature may visit the Celestial Hells.

After an unknown period of time, the soul is then said to recycle itself, returning back to the mortal plane in a different form. Reincarnation. This comes at a price, as the soul forgets who it was, carrying over trauma and tendencies from previous births.

Burial

Burial is a sacred process, called a Deliverance, which calls for priests or priestesses to evoke the name of the Aspects. If a priest isn’t available, certain prayers and mantras can suffice. Bodies are buried within the ground of Atlas, called the Earthmother, a deified form of the planet.

Priests are sought by kings, army generals, and cutthroat mercenaries alike. Most believe that if a corpse isn’t given a proper Deliverance, the killers may experience horrible repercussions from the Aspects, for the soul will be unable to reincarnate.

What are your views on life and death in fiction? Do you have a story that explores these concepts? Leave your answer in the comments below. Thanks for reading!


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My Experience with Fasting & Creative Writing

A short post today, as I’ve been busy with increasing hours at my two jobs, as well as manuscript progress.

As a casual faster, I’m still new to the ritual, but it has been a rather enlightening experience. Fasting, for those who don’t know, is withholding caloric intake for a specified interval. As a society, most of us eat too much. It shows on our waistlines, and in the various degenerative diseases running rampant.

My Experience With Fasting

The idea of fasting is to kickstart the body’s regenerative ability. To clear the mind. Years ago, I had heard about writers and artists who had used fasting to enhance their creative power. Curious, I gave it a try.

I started slow, no-breakfast fasting, using fresh juices or fruit instead. The intermittent fasting helped my morning productivity. I had more energy to get things done, more inspiration to read, research, and write. I used to be an advocate for a “big hearty breakfast”, but I would grow lazy and depressed every morning. Little got done around the house, let alone on my writing.

Later, once I got into 24 to 36 hour water fasts, I got some serious detox symptoms. Night sweats, chills, fever, heart palpitations—it scared me. However, I was bored without food, and I found myself with lots of free time—and with a high degree of focus. During these fasts, there was serious progress on my writing.

The first 24 hours I was the most productive, as my body still ran on stored energy from the previous days’ food. Once my tolerance for water fasts increased, day two became almost as productive. Day three is where I crash and must rest. Still, my mind is clear and I usually brainstorm wonderful ideas for my stories and characters. Meditation during a fast is most helpful. I’m hoping to reach the 7 to 10 day benchmark someday, life and work permitting, to see how my body and creative ability evolves.

My Breakfast Relapse

The other week, due to variables outside my control, I had a big breakfast in the morning. Sure enough, I became nervous, unfocused, depressed, and the rest of the day was shot. I ended up avoiding writing, for my mind was full of unexplained anxiety and my body was fatigued. I used to feel like this most of the time, back when my writing was a lot worse. It proves—at least for me—that intermittent fasting is an indispensable tool for wordsmithing (aka writing).

How to Begin

If you’re a writer, artist, athlete, or some other hobbyist, why not give intermittent fasting a try? The beginner fast is 16-8, meaning you avoid eating and drinking (besides fresh juices) for 16 hours after dinner. The remaining 8 hours you feed on solid foods. You can do 16 hours on water too, for improved cleansing. Advance until you can go 20 hours on water/juice, and 4 on solid meals.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to have a morning juice, then a meal around noon, followed by a meal around 4-o’clock. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve gotten creative with it—as I love to with food, one of my other passions—and my stomach feels well nourished by the end of the night. I’d caution against fruit juices for those with candida issues. I had to resolve mine beforehand, and iodine and boron are good places to start. These minerals are also good for boosting brain power and creativity.

Curious about fasting? What are your experiences with it? I’d love to hear in the comments below, thanks! 🙂


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